Nicholas Ducharme-Barth is a Ph.D. student in the fisheries and aquatic sciences program within the University of Florida’s School of Forest Resources and Conservation. He is using spatial information associated with the Vessel Monitoring System data to gain a better understanding of the commercial reef fish fishery in the Gulf of Mexico. His career goal is to be a stock assessment scientist and help provide scientific advice to ensure the continued sustainability of marine resources.
Meaghan Faletti is a master’s student studying marine science in the Marine Resource Assessment Program at the University of South Florida College of Marine Science. She is investigating the movement of hogfish in the Gulf of Mexico as they age from juveniles to adults. In her career, she would like to continue studying fish ecology research to help fisheries managers better understand interactions between fish and their environment, increase knowledge and protection of essential fish habitats, and better advise ecosystem-based management approaches.
Elizabeth Herdter is a Ph.D. student in the Marine Resource Assessment Program at the USF’s College of Marine Science. She is evaluating age structure, growth patterns and abundance of spotted seatrout young-of-the-year, or those fish born within the past year. Herdter, who has previously worked as a stock assessment fisheries biologist for the Ocean Conservancy said her ultimate career goal is to work as an assessment scientist for a state or federal agency.
Bryan Keller is pursuing a Ph.D. in biological oceanography at Florida State University. He is studying the spatial ecology and seasonal migrations of coastal sharks. Before beginning his Ph.D. program, the certified scuba diver worked as a scientific director at Global Eco Adventures, and as a team member for the Bimini Biological Field Station in the Bahamas. After completing his Ph.D., he hopes to secure a post-doctoral position with a state agency to conduct fishery-based research.
Brian Moe is a Ph.D. student studying biological science at Florida State University. His dissertation is focused on filling in information gaps regarding the life history and population dynamics of deep-water shark species. To do this, he is also evaluating the use of near-infrared spectroscopy (NIRS) as a non-lethal method to age sharks. He intends to pursue a career in either academia at a research first university or a career with a government agency focusing on fisheries stock assessment.
Cheston Peterson is a Ph.D. student studying biological science at Florida State University. He is studying how medium-sized predators make decisions about how to move and where to go based on the locations of their prey and predators. After he graduates, he plans to either pursue a career in federal fisheries management or in academia doing work related to marine fisheries ecology.
2017 Aylesworth Scholars
James Conrad is a Ph.D. student studying biology at the University of South Florida. He is studying why the human pathogen Vibrio vulnificus, which is found in warm coastal waters and is known to accumulate in shellfish, is capable of causing disease in some environments at certain times of the years, but not others. To do this, he is researching whether modifications to the genetic material of the organism contribute to the harmfulness of Vibrio, which is sometimes mistakenly referred to as “flesh-eating bacteria.”
Devon Pharo is a master’s student in the fisheries and aquatic sciences program within the University of Florida’s School of Forest Resources and Conservation. He is studying how algal blooms might affect stone crabs in Florida Bay. He is also investigating how stone crabs use chemical cues to navigate, and find food and shelter in the hard-bottom communities they inhabit.
2017 Chuck Skoch Scholar
Kelly van Woesik is a senior at Satellite High School. Van Woesik’s award-winning project focused migration patterns of great white sharks in the Atlantic Ocean.Van Woesik has been accepted into the Florida Institute of Technology, where she plans to pursue a degree in oceanography and obtain her scientific diver certification.
2017 Florida Outdoor Writers Association Scholars
Kirsten Hecht is a Ph.D. student in interdisciplinary ecology at the University of Florida. She founded the Florida chapter of the Southeast Partners in Amphibians and Reptile Conservation, and is an avid blogger for the national website. She has been featured on BuzzFeed News as the creator of the uber-successful hashtag #HERpers highlighting the work of women in herpetology. Hecht earned her bachelor’s degree in evolution and ecology at The Ohio State University and her master’s degree in interdisciplinary ecology at the University of Florida. Her dissertation research focuses on two types of salamanders: common mudpuppies and sirens. After taking classes in communication and education, she’s embraced the use of social media to showcase her work and the work of her colleagues.
Matthew Ware is a Ph.D. candidate in biological oceanography at Florida State University. As an avid dive photographer and master dive trainer, he is incorporating new photographic technologies like virtual reality in his fieldwork. He uses his underwater photography as a tool in his fieldwork for encouraging marine conservation. For example, his dissertation focuses on how beach and species management plans impact the nesting grounds of sea turtles in Alabama and the Florida Panhandle. Images of sea turtles can spark empathy among the public, Ware said. In 2015, Ware was invited to give a TEDx talk at Nova Southeastern Universityto talk about his love of visual media and species conservation, this time with a focus on sharks, which are sometimes given a bad rep.
Heather Sadusky is a master’s student studying coastal zone management at the University of Miami. A Florida native and experienced angler, Sadusky has served as a news desk assistant for CBS News in Chicago, and an online editor and social media producer for CBS in Denver. Sadusky returned to Florida from Colorado in 2016 to start her graduate degree. In addition to pursuing her master’s degree, Sadusky is currently building a website titled Farmed Seafood as an information center for all things aquaculture, and interning with The Billfish Foundation. During her internship, she will be communicating with local fishers and marina operators about their businesses as well as managing the organizations social media channels.
2017 Florida Sea Grant Scholars
Erica Ross is a Ph.D. student in the fisheries and aquatic sciences program in the University of Florida’s School of Forest Resources and Conservation, and a 2015 Guy Harvey Scholar. Her dissertation research is looking at how climate change will impact the transmission of PaV1, a virus that infects juvenile spiny lobsters. Upon graduation, Ross, who is also an aspiring yoga teacher, hopes to pursue a career with a conservation organization doing research and outreach work.
Abigail Engleman is a Ph.D. student studying biological science at Florida State University, and a 2016 Florida Outdoor Writers Association scholar. With her scholarship, she will be using 3D printing technology to create coral reef ‘prosthetics’ that can repair physically degraded reefs. These ‘prosthetics’ are generated by scanning coral and printing out a new ‘replicate coral,’ using same material as natural coral and can be added to reefs, providing immediate habitat and encouraging more coral growth in the future. Engleman, who has previously worked as an intern in NOAA’s Office of National Marine Sanctuaries helping to craft education and outreach materials, hope to pursue a career that combines her love of science and communication.
Bryan Keller is a Ph.D. studying biological oceanography at Florida State University. He is studying the spatial ecology and seasonal migrations of coastal sharks. His intrigue with migration has led him to determine what mechanism sharks are using to facilitate their navigational success. Keller, who has interned at the Bimini Biological Field Station in the Bahamas, hopes to pursue a career with a state or federal agency and be involved in the formation of new environmental policies.
Conor MacDonnell is a Ph.D. student studying soil and water science at the University of Florida. For his dissertation research, he is studying the effects of artificial structures on seagrass in the Indian River Lagoon. The goal of his research is to see if artificial seagrass, integrated with live grass, can reduce herbivory by fish through association resistance. He explains this is when the fish bites into the fake seagrass, hates it, and associates the fake grass with the real bed, giving living seagrass a better shot at survival. MacDonnell said he’s open to a variety of future careers, but hopes to find a job that makes the largest restorative impact on our ecosystems.
Devon Pharo is a master’s student in the fisheries and aquatic sciences program in the University of Florida’s School of Forest Resources and Conservation. Cyanobacteria blooms have a major impact on hard-bottom habitat in the Florida Keys and could have negative effects on the condition of the stone crabs inhabiting these impacted areas. For his master’s research, Pharo is studying how these algal blooms might affect the ecology and biology of stone crabs in Florida Bay. Pharo has also worked as a research technician monitoring Caribbean spiny lobsters for the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and for Don Behringer’s lab at the University of Florida.
2017 Knauss Marine Policy Fellows
Brendan Talwar is a recent graduate of Florida State University, where he earned his master’s degree in biological science. For his graduate research, he investigated the mortality rate of deep-sea bycatch species, such as sharks, after being caught on longlines or in traps. Talwar earned his bachelor’s degree in biology from Furman University. Since then, he worked as a research assistant for many organizations including the Shark Research and Conservation Program in the Bahamas, the Shark Bay Ecosystem Research Project in Australia and the Belize Marine Research and Education Center. He has also served as an instructor for a tropical island ecology field course at Monmouth University and a marine science education instructor for FSU’s Sea-to-See program. In Washington he will serve as the communications and policy analyst for the Marine Mammal Commission, an independent government organization that provides scientific information about human impacts on marine mammals and their ecosystems.
Adrian Mahoney recently graduated from the University of Florida Levin College of Law Conservation Clinic where he earned a certificate in land use and environmental law. Mahoney received his bachelor’s degree in environmental science from the University of Florida and has completed an internship with the Tropical Audubon Society, where he worked on the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Project. While in law school, he conducted legal research on issues associated with water law, land use law and environmental restoration as a legal clerk for the Everglades Foundation. In Washington he will be working for the NOAA Research Office of the Assistant Administrator, where he will collaborate with senior leaders to support science dealing with climate, weather, oceans and coasts.
Nature Coast Biological Station Scholar
Hannah Brown is a Ph.D. student studying interdisciplinary ecology at the University of Florida. Her dissertation research is focused on oyster restoration projects along the Gulf Coast and how various stakeholders involved in those projects communicate and network. She says the goal of her project is to assess how the knowledge about restoration projects, held by oyster growers, coastal managers and scientists, is shared between groups to make recommendations for future efforts.